Cow Parsley (Anthriscus sylvestris)

Cow Parsley is a tall plant you may recognise from rural roadside verges. It’s also thriving on the Connswater Community Greenway appearing rapidly over the last few weeks along our riversides, woodland edges and hedges, bringing a bit of the country to the city.

It is a short-lived plant which spreads rapidly producing dramatic displays of white flowers in May and June and a pungent aniseed or parsley like smell when disturbed or crushed between the fingers. It grows to 1m tall and has large open umbrella shaped flowers which look like fine lace in April and June (it’s sometimes called ‘Queen Anne’s Lace’). The leaves are green, sharply-cut and pinnate similar to a fern.

Photo Credit: Aaron Matchett

The multiple flower clusters appear from May until June and attract a variety of insect life including bees moths and hoverflies. The disadvantage of this big flower display is the large quantities of seeds it produces making it a very common plant and prone to taking over an area at the expense of a wider variety of other species. It is more commonly considered a weed and an invasive species in many areas of the United States. But a weed is still a plant after all, it’s just in the wrong place!

Be careful not to mistake it for the very similar looking Hemlock Conium maculatum which is bigger and has purple spotted markings on the stem. It is poisonous and should be avoided.

Where to find it?

Cow Parsley loves humus rich semi-shaded locations so is thriving along the Knock, Loop and Connswater Rivers as well as along our mature hedgerows and wooded areas in Orangefield and Victoria Park.

Photo Credit: Paul Hunter, Sam Thompson bridge at Victoria Park

Be Part of it…

Get out there and look at the cow parsley flowers yourself. Do you think that they look like lace?

A big thank you to Linda Stewart who last week sent us a picture of a white bluebell she spotted in Cregagh Glen. These are quite rare as they have a genetic variation that means they have no colour pigment. We love hearing what plants are catching your eye when you are out and about.  

Photo Credit: Linda Stewart